Threat Made to Grogan Trial Attorney
Friday, August 27th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 27 — The trial of Manson cultist Steve Grogan was halted for several hours yesterday when the defense attorney reported he had received a death threat from someone who complained over the way the defense case was being handled.
Superior court Judge Joseph L. Call called a recess at the outset of the morning session while attorney Charles Weedman conferred with his 20-year-old client.
Judge Call later agreed to resume proceedings at the start of the afternoon session.
Grogan, regarded as one of Charles Manson’s chief lieutenants, is accused in the murder of movie stuntman Donald (Shorty) Shea. Shea disappeared in August 1969 and no body has been found.
Loyal Manson family member Nancy Pitman (Brenda McCann) testified later in the day that she never heard Grogan confess to killing Shea, even though she admitted she was present at a conversation where another said he heard the confession.
The previous witness, Paul Watkins, said Miss Pitman was present as Grogan described how he, Charles Manson and two other men stabbed Shea and cut off his head.
Miss Pitman said she recalled the conversation, but it concerned only Watkins’ draft board physical and ways “to fail it.”
She never heard anyone screaming in the night at the ranch, although there always were many animal sounds and “some of them sound almost human,” Miss Pitman said.
Dep. Dist. Atty. Burton Katz, attempting to show that the witness was biased, asked Miss Pitman if it was true she “loved” the members of the family and considered them “brothers and sisters, fathers and sons.”
“Mr. Katz, I love you and you’re trying to kill us,” she answered.
It was not members of the family, but people who worked at the ranch who disapproved of Shea’s marriage to a Negro, Miss Pitman said.
When Ruby Pearl, foreman of the ranch, saw a wedding picture of Shea, she said, “Oh no, how could you?” according to Miss Pitman.
Another witness, Mariam Binder was called, interrupting Miss Pitman briefly.
Mr. Binder said she last saw Shea, a family friend, Aug. 19, 1969, when he gave her a ride to a doctor’s office.
Shea seemed very upset about his marriage, Mr. Binder said.
He told Mr. Binder his wife had left home and he had found a note saying she left because the man she had been going with had threatened to kill Shea, Mrs. Binder said.
Shea said he didn’t like staying at the ranch because the family was “up to no good,” but he remained “because he loved (George) Spahn so much,” Mrs. Binder testified.
Mrs. Binder said she saw Shea frequently and he telephoned her almost daily between 1965 and 1969, but she has never seen him again.
The disclosure of the threat came from Dep. DA. Katz.
Katz claimed that Weedman either Wednesday night or early yesterday morning received a telephone call from a person who said:
“You haven’t been doing enough for Clem. We’re going to get you.”
“Clem” is Grogan’s nickname and what he is called by members of Manson’s nomadic “family.”
Weedman later confirmed that he was called in the courtroom yesterday at 9:40 a.m. by a man who said:
“We know you’re not doing a job for Grogan. You’d better start working for him or we’ll get you.”
The defense attorney said the voice was of an older man.
Weedman admitted he lunged toward Grogan after the phone call and shouted:
“I don’t have to take this. I’ll knock you – block off I’ve got a family to think of.”
However, the attorney said he calmed down and declared he felt Grogan had nothing to do with the call and had no knowledge of it.
Weedman also indicated he would continue on the case “for the time being.”
The telephone call came before yesterday’s court session began. The only persons in the courtroom were the clerk, bailiffs, Weedman and Grogan.
Weedman was appointed by the court to defend Grogan after the defendant was indicted last year by the County Grand Jury.
The defense attorney opened his case only Wednesday and failed in an attempt to have the charge against Grogan dismissed on grounds the state had not proved that Shea was murdered.
Grogan’s jury trial began last month.